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Musical theatre actor Daniel Bailey: ‘Being a swing pushed my understanding of my own skills’

Daniel Bailey Daniel Bailey

As well as performing West End musicals, Daniel Bailey runs an arts activism website. He tells Giverny Masso about his latest role in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert…

What’s your role in Priscilla?

I’m playing Adam, a young drag queen. He’s from a wealthy background but has a bad relationship with his parents because they don’t agree with his choices. Adam is an activist: he takes his beliefs and shoves them in other people’s faces. There is so much to be excited about in the show, with the LGBTQ+ community and especially my being a black Australian – I feel privileged to be a voice for a community you don’t often hear about.

What aspects of Adam do you relate to?

I’m also an activist, so I connect with that part. I run an online magazine called The Palace of the Dogs. We advocate for the arts for people who don’t have a voice in their community. I started it by myself four years ago and now I have a team of 11 people. The great thing is we are all artists, and we are all from different backgrounds.

What inspired you to set up the site?

Being an artist is more than just performing. I realised that I had something to say, but I didn’t have the means to do it when I was being a bush on Pride Rock [performing in The Lion King]. I write articles, make short films and interview people. It has really aided me as a performer and opens conversations for me that I can take into the rehearsal room.

How did you get into theatre?

I used to like dancing, and my mum took me to ZooNation’s Into the Hoods when I was younger. When I was 14, I took part in the artist development programme at the Hackney Empire. I then studied at Urdang Academy in London. I started when I was 16 and the majority of people were in their early to mid 20s, so I had to grow up quickly. I did Hair straight out of Urdang, which was the best experience. I’ve also done The Lion King, which was amazing. Motown was the pivotal part of my career to date, because it was so hard. Being a swing pushed me and my understanding of my own skills.

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What else have you been working on recently?

I have written a play called Weak Tea, which was performed at the Lyric Hammersmith. Brexit really affected me and I wanted to comment on where society is right now and highlight the voices of people who are just about managing in some way.

What has been the biggest challenge in your career so far?

When I left Urdang, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was so easily moulded. I went through a process of understanding that I have a voice. As I was so young, I didn’t know how to speak for myself. Now more than ever, I have been able to say what I want.

CV: Daniel Bailey

Training: Diploma in musical theatre, Urdang Academy, London (2008-11)
First professional role: Hud in Hair the Musical (2011)
Agent: Grantham Hazeldine

Priscilla, Queen of the Desert runs at the Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch until May 26

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